As Product Managers we are always looking to build better products and better experiences for our users. Most thought leaders in the product space profess that the single best way to do this is by getting to know your customers inside out. Of course, there are varying degrees of knowing your customers. Your job as a product manager should be to understand your customers in as much detail as you can, so that you can make the best decisions for your product.
If you can’t get much deeper than “Our customers are Saas businesses that generate more than $50 million revenue every year”, then you probably need to dig a bit deeper.
- What does a typical work-day look like for your users?
- What do they achieve by using your product?
- What other complementary tools do they use?
- What are their own customers trying to achieve?
- Why do all our customers have pet Mongooses at their offices?
You get it…
When you think about it, we are a handful of product managers, trying to build great products that will be used by hundreds, thousands or millions of people. Each person will have a different view of our product and how to use it. Ours will also differ.
Whilst we all have great ideas of what our product roadmap should look like, we are not the end users of the product that we are building. Our opinions of the product, how it should be used and of the value that it delivers, are rather useless if they do not align with the opinion of the market – our customers and users.
By understanding our market’s needs at a more intimate level, we can empathise more with our users, which in turn allows us to ship better products that our users love.
I like to summarise the above with a couple of sentences:
Your opinion does not matter. The market is the only valid opinion.
I have found these blunt words to be extremely helpful in my role as a product manager. They serve as a constant reminder of what we need to keep on top of mind when discovering opportunities and taking decisions on what to build next. I have found them so helpful in fact, that I’ve set this as a permanent background of my to-do list – a trello board that I look at on a daily basis.
So how do we build for the market?
We build for the market by building products that solve problems and blockers that prevent our users from getting things done. To do this, we should be speaking to our customers to understand what is it exactly that they want to solve, and, more specifically how they measure success.
By understanding the problem at hand and the success metrics, we can provide the necessary context for our team to design and engineer solutions that solve these problems for our users. If we focus on providing accurate context and clear outcomes, it becomes easier to build more innovative products which have a much higher chance of being adopted by our users.
A lot of people think that a Product Manager’s role is to be creative and come up with features for engineers to build. I disagree with this. As Product Managers we should not be primarily thinking about features or defining the solutions for our engineers – we should be focusing on providing detailed context around our users and their expectations. Engineering and designing features should be left to engineers and designers. It’s their role after all.
To close off, always keep the market, your users and customers, at the top of your mind. They are the ones who will use your product and they will determine the success of your product. Their opinions matter greatly. Yours – definitely not as much.